Friday, August 31, 2012

Transfer deadline post: Canadian edition



I don't care a lick for the breathless reportage of today's transfer deadline dealings but there have been a number of moves in the past 24 hours (and beyond) of particular relevance to Canada and our national team.

Tosaint Ricketts from FC Politehnica Timisoara (Romania) to Valerenga Olso (Norway)

In an earlier post I commented on a likely move from Rickett's Romanian club, which has not been paying him, to Dynamo Dresden of Germany's 2.Bundesliga. That move, however, was held up. With Ricketts putting pen to paper today, the Valerenga transfer seems more likely to stick.


Valerenga, of course, is Lars Hirschfeld's club and in a video interview, Tosaint makes it clear that the Lex-lookalike had a role to play in the discussions. Like Ricketts, Lars was a refugee from a bad situation in Transylvania. Ricketts will be competing for minutes at the club with former TFC whipping boy Chad Barrett. The agreement runs only until the end of 2012, but one would imagine if he shows well a longer contract would be in the offing.

Valerenga are currently 9th in Norway's Eliteserien, 8 points out of a European spot.

Nana Attakora signs with FC Haka (Finland), previously with San Jose Earthquakes

Attakora is another player who was called into a Canada squad earlier this year without having a full-time gig. His stock has dropped somewhat since a promising 2010 campaign with Toronto FC.  The standard of play in Finland's Veikkausliiga (top flight) is not high and Haka are bottom of the table, but it is Nana and for Canada for him to be playing. The league is home to a number of North Americans who were formerly on the bubble between NASL and MLS calibre -- Whitecaps fans will remember Mason Trafford and Justin Moose, both of whom currently ply their trade there.

John Molinaro has the goods on the deal.

Iain Hume loaned to Doncaster Rovers from Preston North End (both England League One)

Like Attakora, Hume was called earlier this year by Stephen Hart but was not selected for the two matches against Panama.  Hume has been made redundant by the emergence of Ricketts but may yet find his way back to the Canada squad. A good goal scoring performance over the course of his half-season loan at Doncaster would be a good step.

A poster by the name of Grizzly has a good analysis of Hume's career arc over at the Vs forums.

Ethan Gage signs with Nykopings (Swedish 4th tier)

Hey, remember Ethan Gage?  He used to play for the Whitecaps and stuff.  Was Canadian U20 player of the year in 2010. Ran off to Reading and did nought.  Now he's playing at a level that I highly doubt is fully professional, but hey, have fun doing it, ok? I'll report back if he moves on to a team of a higher standard.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Canada roster for Panama WCQs

The names, then some notes:

# Player Pos. Team League Age Caps Gls
1 Lars Hirschfeld GK VĂ¥lerenga Norway 33 41 0
18 Milan Borjan GK Sivasspor Turkey 24 9 0
22 Kenny Stamatopoulos GK AIK Stockholm Sweden 33 8 0
3 Ante Jazic D Chivas USA MLS 36 33 1
4 Kevin McKenna D 1. FC Koeln Germany 32 59 11
5 Andre Hainault D Houston Dynamo MLS 26 28 2
11 Marcel de Jong D FC Augsburg Germany 25 19 1
12 Dejan Jakovic D DC United MLS 27 12 0
15 David Edgar D Burnley FC England 25 11 0
19 Ashtone Morgan D Toronto FC MLS 21 2 0
2 Nik Ledgerwood M Hammarby Sweden 27 19 0
6 Julian de Guzman M FC Dallas MLS 31 57 4
7 Terry Dunfield M Toronto FC MLS 30 10 1
8 Will Johnson M Real Salt Lake MLS 25 28 2
13 Atiba Hutchinson M PSV Eindhoven Netherlands 29 58 4
14 Dwayne De Rosario M DC United MLS 34 68 19
16 Pedro Pacheco M CD Santa Clara Portugal 28 7 0
20 Patrice Bernier M Montreal Impact MLS 32 47 2
9 Tosaint Ricketts F Politehnica Timisoara Romania 25 14 4
10 Simeon Jackson F Norwich FC England 25 29 6
17 Olivier Occean F Eintracht Frankfurt Germany 30 26 6




Goals 63





Avg age 30.05





Avg caps 27.86


By now, we have a good idea of Stephen Hart's players are. The non-committed excepted (Hoilett, de Guzman the younger) these represent, by and large, the best Canadian players available.

Notes:

  • There is little turnover between June's squad and this one: Joining are Terry Dunfield, Marcel de Jong and Patrice Bernier.  Exiting are Mike Klukowski, Issey Nakajima-Farran, 17-year old Sam Piette and Iain Hume.
  • A changing of the guard appears underway at a few positions: Hume has been made largely redundant by the emergence of Tosaint Ricketts, while Ante Jazic's indian summer and the continued development of Ashtone Morgan have pushed Klukowski out of the squad.  The latter may be re-born as a late-career centre half, his current position at APOEL, when Kevin McKenna hangs up the cleats.
  • Stephen Hart will have the option to re-unite the successful defensive grouping of Jazic, McKenna, Andre Hainault and David Edgar, although the inclusion of de Jong in the team may instigate some changes.  Says Hart, of de Jong: "Marcel gives us a different dimension down the left. He can play a number of positions, adds variety"
  • De Jong's versatility may indeed come into play because what the squad lacks, apart from him, are players with the ability to attack from the wing. Ricketts, Dwayne De Rosario and Simeon Jackson have played there in the past, but all are natural strikers. Patrice Bernier can play on the right, and may need to in order to get in the XI from a squad with 7 central midfielders.
  • De Rosario scored his 100th MLS goal yesterday and will have an opportunity to reach another milestone next month.  His next goal for Canada will be his 20th which would place him atop the all-tie national team scoring table.
  • Neither Milan Borjan nor Kenny Stamatopoulos are earning regular minutes for their club sides so expect Lars Hirschfeld to be the starter.
  • Tosaint Ricketts is listed with Politehnica Timisoara. I suppose this is technically true until his contract situation is resolved, but he has been training with his new club in Germany.  By this designation, the squad is comprised of 21 players from 10 countries and 9 leagues: MLS (9 players), Germany (3), England, Sweden (2 each), Norway, Turkey, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania (1 each).
If you're so inclined, you can also take a look at the Panama squad Canada will be facing, which was also released today.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Confirmed selections for Panama WCQs

Canada's World Cup qualifying matches September 7th and 11th against Panama are undoubtedly the most critical the men's team will have played since the 2000 Gold Cup.  So the upcoming squad selection is the most important squad in some time as well. You want to know who's on it.
Given those words from Stephen Hart, you probably already have a good idea of who will be selected. On a positive note, it would seem captain Kevin McKenna should be healthy following a recent injury and surgery.  The rest of the blanks are pretty easy to fill in.

Nevertheless, it has become tradition here to make you aware of the early confirmations.

Pos Name Club Age Caps Goals Source
D Dejan Jakovic DC United 27 12 0 source
F Dwayne De Rosario DC United 34 68 19 source
D Andre Hainault Houston 26 28 2 source


The first two confirmations come courtesy of DC-based soccer writer Steven Goff.  He confirmed the same two players for the Trinidad friendly, from which De Rosario eventually withdrew, but Dwayne will show for these matches barring a major injury in the next week.

News Tuesday that Andre Hainault has been selected should come as no surprise. Stephen Hart will be keen to get the back line band together: Ante Jazic, Kevin McKenna, Hainault, and David Edgar combined to keep 3 straight clean sheets against USA, Cuba, and Honduras in June.  We also expect Marcel de Jong to challenge for Jazic's spot.

There had been some health concerns about McKenna, but those seem largely to have been answered as he returned to the FC Koeln lineup in a 56-minute substitute appearance following surgery for a minor injury weeks ago.

The official roster announcement comes tomorrow. If you have leads on any other players being selected, holler at me in the comments or on twitter @o_o_t

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Spot kicks

A question that I pondered this afternoon: If all of Canada's first choice players are available and in the lineup, who takes a penalty, should one be awarded?

Included in the poll are Patrice Bernier, Will Johnson, Dwayne De Rosario, and Olivier Occean.

Will Johnson
I include him only because he converted a penalty just the other day in Canada's 2-0 friendly win over Trinidad and Tobago.  The players remaining on the pitch when the penalty was awarded hardly constitute a first choice squad, but it was telling that Johnson was chosen ahead of some of the more offensive-minded players on the field (notably Tosaint Ricketts).  If you watch the highlights you will hear someone (I think Hart) yelling from the sidelines for Will to take the ball.

The penalty itself is not the most confident and the keeper gets a hand to it, but credit Johnson for at least hitting it with power.

Dwayne De Rosario
This would normally have been the default option. De Rosario notched 4 Canada goals in 2011, all penalties.  But he has not attempted a penalty this season. I don't pay close enough attention to DC United to know whether they have not been awarded any spot kicks (unlikely) or they have another first choice taker.

Patrice Bernier
Bernier is the reason for this post. His penalty conversion in yesterday's 3-1 win over San Jose puts him at 5-of-5 for the season. The only problem is that he might not be in the team if everyone is healthy, though I am more convinced than ever that he should be.

Oliver Occean
Occean is Canada's first choice target forward and has experience taking penalties with his club team last season. He should be confident given the opportunity.

If you vote 'other', explain your choice in the comments.

Who is your first choice penalty taker for Canada?
  
pollcode.com free polls 

Update: I also like this question from Grant in the comments: "How about, who are your five takers if Canada finds itself in a do-or-die situation?"

I'll take Occean, Bernier, and De Rosario.  After that it gets tricky.  Kevin McKenna, maybe?  Josh Simpson?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Whitecaps Canadian content up to 0.00014469686%

VANCOUVER: Knighton, DeMerit (O'Brien 31), Lee, Bonjour, Richards, Robson, Koffie, Davidson, Mattocks (Miller 18), Camilo (Teibert 86)


Friday, August 10, 2012

Canada roster for T&T friendly

With all the Olympic excitement it has been easy to forget that the men's team will be playing its most important matches of the last 4 years just four weeks time. As preparation, Canada has called in 18 players for a short training camp and friendly August 15th against Trinidad and Tobago in South Florida.

Here's the squad:

# Player Pos. Team League Age Caps Gls
1 Lars Hirschfeld GK VĂ¥lerenga Norway 33 40 0
18 Milan Borjan GK Sivasspor Turkey 24 8 0
4 Dejan Jakovic D DC United MLS 27 6 0
5 Andre Hainault D Houston Dynamo MLS 26 25 2
11 Marcel de Jong D FC Augsburg Germany 25 18 1
13 Ante Jazic D Chivas USA MLS 36 32 1
15 Doneil Henry D Toronto FC MLS 19 0 0
2 Nik Ledgerwood M Hammarby Sweden 27 18 0
3 Russell Teibert M Vancouver Whitecaps MLS 19 0 0
6 Julian de Guzman M FC Dallas MLS 31 56 4
7 Terry Dunfield M Toronto FC MLS 30 9 1
8 Will Johnson M Real Salt Lake MLS 25 27 1
12 Jonathan Beaulieu-Bourgault M

23 6 0
14 Evan James M Montreal Impact MLS 22 0 0
16 Pedro Pacheco M CD Santa Clara Portugal 28 6 0
20 Patrice Bernier M Montreal Impact MLS 32 46 2
9 Tosaint Ricketts F Dynamo Dresden* Germany 25 13 3
10 Lucas Cavallini F Club Nacional Uruguay 19 0 0




Goals 15





Avg age 25.58





Avg caps 17.22



Young guns
It is perhaps a sign of how difficult a time Stephen Hart had getting players released that there are no fewer than four uncapped players in this squad. Doneil Henry, Lucas Cavallini, Russell Teibert and Evan James have all featured for Canada's U20 and U23 teams, but the latter two have only seen time as reserves for their teams this season. With only 18 players in the squad expect at least one or two to earn their first senior cap in this match.

Goals?
As you can see, the 18 players selected have combined for a total of 15 senior goals for Canada. Dwayne De Rosario and his 19 Canada goals had originally been confirmed by a DC journalist, but he is not in the squad. With Tosaint Ricketts as the only experienced forward in the group (and even he has only played 13 times for Canada) expect to either James or Cavallini to see some time up front.

Shakeup in the back line
Throughout Canada's first set of qualifiers, the defensive team of Ante Jazic, Kevin McKenna, Andre Hainault, and David Edgar was solid. With McKenna (injured) and Edgar both absent it will be interesting to see what Hart decides to do. The return of Marcel de Jong to the squad provides another left-sided option, and Jakovic will likely take McKenna's spot in the middle, but the right back spot is once again a problem. Hart could go with his previous solution of playing a midfielder out of position (Jonathan Beaulieu-Bourgault or Nik Ledgerwood) or he could go with the young Henry. Here's hoping he does not play a left-footed player on the right (either Jazic or de Jong) or shift Hainault out of his accustomed Canada role in the middle.

Other thoughts:

  • I haven't checked but one has to think this is the first time there have been 10 MLS players in any Canada squad.
  • I listed Tosaint Ricketts for Dynamo Dresden even though, as far as I know, the signing isn't yet official. Some paperwork needs to go through, but he will not be returning to Romania.
  • Patrice Bernier is having an outstanding season after a slow start in Montreal. His spot in the team has been well-earned. Expect to see him take up Atiba Hutchinson's spot at the top of the central midfield triangle.
  • Terry Dunfield's boobs.

Great Scott

I don't often write about women's soccer in this space, but given the events of the past week it is tough and wrong-headed to ignore it. Despite the general everywhere-ness of Olympic stories, the USA screwjob and Canada's subsequent 1-0 bronze medal win have been by far the Canadian stories of these games.  My sister asked to come over at 7am to watch the bronze medal match. Multiple posts on Facebook. My friends, not particularly knowledgeable of Canadian soccer, making excellent Norwegian ref jokes. You've probably experienced the same.

If so, I don't need to bore you with the details. Canada won 1-0 yesterday. Diana Matheson scored the goal. One doesn't need to make comparisons with Sydney Crosby's winner to explain how big it is, even if Brian Williams seems to think he does. Enough of Canada's sports writers and media have taken their crack at explaining this team that surely several will have done it better than I can.

Instead, I want to talk about Desiree Scott.

Don't expect Winnipeg Sun screen grabs to be a regular feature here. For that, check out vaguelyracistandpoorlywritten.tumblr.com
Let's be honest: Canada were fortunate winners in yesterday's match. Not fortunate like the Americans were, beneficiaries of either grossly incompetent or highly suspicious refereeing in consecutive matches, but in the sense that France had more of the play and more occasions to score (25 attempts to 4!). Watching the match I kept saying that "we just need one" but it was also becoming clear that the team would have to score that winner as late as possible or else a French equalizer was inevitable.

Given the scenario it is not too going too far to say that Desiree Scott's goal-line clearance (with the same knee that I feared had been shattered in an extra-time collision during the USA match) was as a big a factor in deciding the outcome as Matheson's moment.

It was also somehow appropriate. Desiree Scott was excellent throughout the tournament: frequently singled out by Jason de Vos for praise for her tenacity and defensive awareness. Yet her one significant misstep was leaving the post on a corner kick against the USA that resulted in their first goal of the match.

It's hard not to be biased towards Scott. Like me she hails from Winnipeg (Says her twitter profile: "Born & Raised In Winnipeg, MB and Proudly Rep my city!"), one of few national teamers of either gender to do so during my 12 years or so of paying attention to these teams. And although I was frequently miscast as a fullback in my years of youth and young adult soccer, I was most successful when played as a deep lying destroyer/holding midfielder, the same role that Scott plays. I notice what these players do.

And Scott plays that role like nobody else I've seen in the women's game. Although her goal-saving clearance was vital, one play stood out for me. Later in the second half, after one of Canada's few forays into France's end, a turnover resulted in a French counter, with numbers. Scott made a breathtaking 40-yard sprint to cover the left-back spot and ease the Frenchwoman off the ball.  She ended the moment of danger before it even became apparent to most, like she had done so many times in this tournament.

Quite simply, she is aware. When I watched this team during the Olympic Qualifiers I made the comparison between Desiree Scott and Terry Dunfield, based on the work-rate and role of both players. With apologies to Terry (here's lookin' at you!) that is grossly unfair to Scott. He is perhaps Canada's 9th or 10th best midfielder. She is possibly the best defensive midfielder in the women's game. He gets "stuck in", as the Brits like to say. So does Scott. But she does it without earning a yellow card every 25 minutes.

Like every Canadian I salute Matheson for her great career and her fantastic winner. Hats off to Christine Sinclair, the best female player in the world. And tip of the hat to John Herdman, the man who doesn't get a medal but who turned it all around. And to the whole team.

But here's a Winnipeg shout-out to the baddest little destroyer around.

Update: Does it get more Winnipeg than this? Olympian's mom misses magic goal (Winnipeg Free Press)


Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Winnipeg Sun art department gets something right?

I don't typically have much enthusiasm for the editorial direction of the Winnipeg Sun's cover art, but I think yesterday's paper got it about right.